Rockabilly - Page 2

Darrel Higham

Darrel Higham – Mobile Corrosion

Nervous Records NERCD082 [1995]
Like A Brand New Man – If You Can Live With It – Long Lonely Road – Deep In The Heart Of Texas – I Like Me Just Fine – Second Hand Information – In My Heart – No One Will Grieve – Revenue Man – Country Lila Rhue – You Were Right, I Was Rong – I’ve Been Gone A Long Time – Don’t Bug Me Baby – Amanda’s Song – Travis Pickin’ – Life Goes On – Rockin’ Band Blues

Recorded in 1995 for Nervous Records with Rusti Steel (lap steel), Les Curtis (drums), Mick Wigfall (bass), and Dave Brown (piano), Mobile Corrosion is one of Higham’s most country-tinged albums.
Like A Brand New Man is a perfect opener, sounding like a cross between Johnny Horton’s Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor and Berry’s Promised Land. If You Can Live Without It is a country ballad yet muscled up by the slap bass and features nice guitar picking.
Long Lonely Road is a Rock’n’roll tune on which Darrel’s Cochran inspired vocal makes wonder. Geraint Watkins’ Deep In the Heart Of Texas is an excellent country drive with a powerful drive. The following track, I Like Me Just Fine, is way heavier, with mean guitar and powerful vocal. Back to traditional Rockabilly, with a hillbilly touch, with Gentleman Jim’s Second Hand Information. Every good Rock’n’Roll album should feature a slow number. Good news, you have two on this album, In My Heart and Amanda’s Song, and one more time, Higham’s voice, not far from Cochran on Lonely Street here, is perfect.
No One Will Grieve is a modern Rocker with a solid bass part. Revenue Man is a cover of George Jones tune, Country Lila Rhue is more on the hillbilly bop vein, while You Were Right, I Was Wrong is a Rockabilly ballad.
I’ve Been Gone Too Long is a mean Country-rock, and you could easily imagine Sonny George singing it. Though Milton Allen did the original of Don’t Bug Me Baby in 1957, Higham’s version comes from the cover made by Shakin Stevens in 1981. It’s instrumental time with Travis Pickin’. No surprise, all is in the title. Life Goes On shows the influence of Gene Vincent, which means brushed snare drums and plenty of jazz influences in the guitar. Rockin’ Band Blues is a Cochran pastiche. Nothing really original but a good song nonetheless.


Darrel Higham & the Barnshakers – Pretty Little Devil

darrel higham

Goofin Records GOOFY 570 [1997]
Sweethearts Or Strangers – Don’t Be Gone Long – Pretty Little Devil – Flattin’ & Thumbin’

Darrel Higham recorded this ep in 1997 with the ever-excellent Barnshakers from Finland. That was not the first collabration between the British guitar picker and the Finnish Rockabilly band. Both recorded a full album together in 1993. Sometimes when two talented artists or bands join forces, the result doesn’t keep up with the expectations (I have a few example that I’ll keep for myself.) That was not the case here, this four-track ep is excellent.
Side one kicks off with a cover of the old classic “Sweethearts or Strangers”. Higham’s vocals and guitar give it a strong Eddie Cochran feel, and Lester Peabody’s steel guitar nicely enhances it. Next is a cover of Bod Doss’ “Don’t Be Long Gone.” Like the original, it’s jet-propelled by a solid slap bass intro.
Vesa Haaja, the singer of the Barnshakers, joins forces to sing harmonies for the Everly sounding Pretty Little Devil, recorded initially by Bob Denton and Eddie Cochran.
The last track is a guitar duet between Higham and Peabody/Jussi Huhtakangas. Well, the title says it all. It’s a gentle battle between these two great pickers. One can only regret that Deke Dickerson wasn’t there at the time of the recording.
There are still a few copies left on Goofin Records.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Stray Cats

Stray Cats
Stray Cats – S/T

Stray Cats – Stray Cats

Arista [1981]
Runaway boys – Fishnet stockings – Ubangi stomp – Jeanie jeanie jeanie – Storm the embassy – Rock this town – Rumble in Brighton – Stray cat strut – Crawl up and die – Double talkin baby – My one desire – Wild saxaphone
In the late 70’s, a trio of three young Rockabilly cats dug in their parents records collection and without any complex and a good dose of naivety took a 25 year old music and made it sound fresh again (which led to a certain animosity from the purists.) Sure they liked Cochran, Vincent and Burnette but they also grew up in New York during the heydays of Punk music.
The construction and the progression of the album itself are faultless. A-side opens with the hypnotic beat of “Runaway Boys” and ends with the rockin’ hymn “Rock This Town”. In between, two covers get the Stray Cats treatment (Warren Smith’s “Ubangi Stomp” and Cochran’s “Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie”) and two original songs. Of course “Fishnet Stockings” is very similar to Lew Williams’ “Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop”. That’s obvious. “Storm The Embassy” is a solid rocker but have nothing to do with rockabilly (actually Setzer played it in his previous band “The Bloodless Pharaohs” under the name “Boys Having Babies” and with different lyrics). The song is kinda political and refers to the Iranian crisis and American hostages in the late 70’s. With a song so closely linked to the actuality, it didn’t allow them to perform it on stage long after 1981, which is bad because musically speaking it rocks (listen to the live bootlegs issued from this period).
The B-side is more or less built on the same structure. The wild (also with a hypnotic riff) “Rumble In Brighton” opens the show. Depending of the pressing one can hear Setzer yell “Ein, Swei, Drei, Vier” at the beginning but you have to listen closely.
The origins of “Stray Cat Strut”, their signature song were subject to questions. Of course it’s the same chord progression than“Hit The Road Jack” and some advanced “Icky Poo” an instrumental by the Nomads or “Lonely Travelin’” by Lonesome Lee as possible sources. But these are rather obscure songs, especially in the late 70’s and it neglects the fact that Setzer grew up in New York and as we said was a Punk fan in his youth. That’s the reason why I believe that the origin of Stray Cat Strut is to be found in Richard Hell’s Blank Generation (a band that often had as a support act the Bloodless Pharaohs). Listen to the guitar solo from Robert Quineand the “Woo-Woo” in the middle, it’s all here. Anyway the band put enough of them to make it a great number and one of the highlight of their shows.
Crawl Up And Die” is a variation on Bill Allen’s “Please Gimme Something” and shows another side of Setzer’s voice, the torrid one. The covers on this side are Ricky Nelson’s “My One Desire” (sounds like the band used to listen to a lot of Imperial Records), Vincent’s Double Talkin’ Baby and Roy Montrell’s “Mellow Saxophone” renamed here “Wild Saxophone” with Jim providing a solid beat and Gary Barnacle on sax. Brilliant.


gonna-ball
Stray Cats – Gonna Ball

Stray Cats – Gonna Ball

Arista [1981]
Baby Blue Eyes – Little Miss Prissy – Wasn’t That – Good Cryin’ Shame – (She’ll Stay) Just One More Day – You Don’t Believe Me – Gonna Ball – Wicked Whisky – Rev It Up and Go – Lonely Summer Nights – Crazy Mixed Up Kid

Following the huge success of their debut album, at least in Europe, the Stray Cats took a break in their heavy touring schedule and in August 81 they flew to Air Recording Studios in Montserrat in the East Indies to record their second album. This time the band took over the production duties with the help of sound engineer Heinz Hoven. The trio, augmented by the presence of prestigious guests including veteran Lee Allen (Little Richard, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and later The Blasters) on sax and Ian Stewart (Rolling Stones) on keyboard played a blusier form of rock’n’roll rather than the modern rockabilly they were known for.
Half of the album is made of blues or blues influenced songs: “Rev It Up and Go” and in a lesser extent “Little Miss Prissy” are obviously influenced by the great Chuck Berry. “You Don’t Believe Me” shows the influence of Elmore James with Setzer on slide and “Wasn’t That Good” proves that they are more than able to deliver a good jump blues (which they’ll later confirm with “Look At That Cadillac” and Lucky Charms”) and “Cryin’ Shame” features a fine harmonica part. Only “(She’ll Stay Just) One More Day” sung by Lee sounds weak and artificial. Though it features a nice organ part, the song is not great and Lee at that time wasn’t the singer he is nowadays.
Of course, Rockabilly is never very far with Johnny Burnette’s Baby Blue Eyes, the raw Gonna Ball (actually a remake of the Wheels’ Let’s Have A Ball) and the instrumental “Wicked Whisky” also cut as a vocal track under the name “Cross That Bridge” as a b-side and on Japan pressings. “Lonely Summer Night” proves that Setzer can top the greatest ballads of the 50’s and “Crazy Mixed up Kids” ends this album at a frantic pace.
This blues orientation confused the fans and the “Gonna Ball” was only a semi-success if you compare to “Stray Cats”.


straycats-built
Stray Cats – Built For Speed

Stray Cats – Built For Speed

EMI [1982]
Rock This Town –  Built For Speed –  Rev It Up & Go – Stray Cat Strut –  Little Miss Prissy – Rumble In Brighton –  Runaway Boys –  Lonely Summer Nights – Double Talkin’ Baby – You Don’t Believe Me – Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie – Baby Blue Eyes

By 1982, the Stray Cats finally achieved success in their own country which led EMI to release this compilation featuring 6 tracks from their debut album, five from Gonna Ball and one new song, the title track, a great country-rockabilly.


Stray Cats – Look at that Cadillac

Look At That Cadillac / Lucky Charm [1983]
Arista 106-271
This is the 7″ that started it all for me. I still clearly remember the day I bought it with my older brother back in 1983 (I was 10, man how time flies). The A-side is a classic jump blues with saxes and piano. Good song if not very original, with Setzer talking about how hard he needs a Cadillac. “Look At That Cadillac” pleased me for sure, but the real jewel was on the B side. “Lucky Charm (oh Wee Suzie)” was – and still is – one of the best songs the Stray Cats ever wrote. Setzer’s voice is perfect. It looks like the curse of the great guitar player, as sometimes no one pays attention to their vocals. Back to the song, it was probably recorded during the same session, as the saxes and piano are still here. This one is more a swingin’/rockin’ tune with every musician taking a hot solo each, especially a very inspired boogie-woogie one by Geraint Watkins (Crazy Cavan, Shakin Pyramids, and many others) and at the end a short slap bass break. And at this moment I thought “Woah! That’s what I want to hear!!!”. And now more than 20 years later I still listen to this single with great joy. I guess this is the power of the 45.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis


rant-n-rave-with-the-stray-cats
Stray Cats – Ran’t & Rave

Stray Cats – Ran’t & Rave

Arista / EMI [1983]
Rebels Rules – Too Hip Gotta Go – Look At That Cadillac – Something’s Wrong With My Radio – 18 Miles To Memphis – Sexy & 17 – Dig Dirty Doggie – I Won’t Stand In Your Way – Hot Rod Gang – How Long Do You Wanna Live Anyway

Following the success of Built For Speed, the Stray Cats reunited with Welshman Dave Edmunds in 1983 to record “Rant & Rave” in London. They opted to return to what made their success and went back to their rockabilly roots (with an exception or two) after the blues inspired “Gonna Ball”.
Rebels Rule” is a good choice to start the selection. With a strong Diddley Beat, Slim Jim playing like a madman on his toms, and Setzer yelling “Rock’n’Roll is never too loud!” the pace is quickly set. The Stray Cats are back!
The next one, “Too Hip Gotta Go” is a good rockabilly and shows Setzer ability on the strings. A fun one to play (see the time Setzer takes to explain it on his instructional video) it’ll remain in their live set list for a very long time. “Look At That Cadillac” is a fine jump blues with juicy saxes and piano. Though it’s more a “sax” tune, Setzer plays a very interesting rhythmic pattern in the background.
Something’s Wrong With My Radio” is a wild rockabilly and the first side (or the first half for you cd’s addicts) ends with “18 Miles To Memphis” a superb country tune with another brilliant guitar solo by Mr Setzer, followed by another brilliant solo this time on steel guitar (still by Mr Setzer) and a galloping rhythm provided by Jim & Lee.
Sexy & 17” opens the b-side. It’s a good song with a solid solo and it’ll make its niche in the charts. Inspired by Roy hall’s Diggin’ the Boogie, “Dig Dirty Doggie” is one of their most rockabilly effort with a huge slap bass.
The style changes with “I Won’t Stand In Your Way” a delicious ballad with a doo-woop arrangement. For this song the band is joined by the vocal group 14 Karat Soul. An accapela version exists too.
Hot Rod Gang” was undoubtedly written with Gene Vincent in mind feature a fine Cliff Gallup influenced solo. The album ends with “How Long You Wanna Live Anyway?” the closest thing to Psychobilly the Stray Cats ever played with heavy guitar and pounding drums.
With 10 songs and not a weak track, the Stray Cats star was rising high. Sadly one year after the release of Rant & Rave the band disbanded and though they made different come-back with some solid songs and albums this is the end of the golden age of the Stray Cats.


Stray Cats - Rock Therapy
Stray Cats – Rock Therapy

Stray Cats – Rock Therapy

EMI [1986]
Rock Therapy – Reckless – Race With The Devil – Looking For Someone To Love – I Wanna Cry – I’m A Rocker – Beautiful Delilah – One Hand Loose – Broken Man – Change Of Heart

By 1986 each member of The Stray Cats was deeply involved in his solo stuff. Setzer had released his first solo album “The Knife Feels Like Justice” in a John Cougar vein at the beginning of the year and Lee and Jim teamed with David Bowie’s guitarist Earl Slick in Phantom, Rocker and Slick for two albums if far to be exceptional contain some interesting things if you’re curious or nostalgic of the 80’s (and dig crazy hairdos). But the three of them were tied to EMI with, according to Setzer, a bad contract. The best way to solve it was to record this album.
So from the start it wasn’t really a “new” Stray Cats album. One can suppose that each of them logically wanted to keep their best material for their solo career. This also explains why half of the songs are covers. But this album has its good moment and even a half-successful Stray Cats album is better than 90% of the rest. The 5 covers are very well done the best being Gene Vincent’s Race With The Devil. But it’s true that, with the exception of Charlie Feathers’ One Hand Loose, the band is in well known territory with the likes Johnny Burnette, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry (“Beautiful Delilah” was often played on stage around 1982).
When it come to the band’s songs things are a bit different. Setzer’s own “Reckless” shows the influence of his solo stuff and announces with an advance of 5 years how the Stray Cats would sound on Let’s go Faster. “Broken Man” is far better with its banjo. Setzer had already toyed with the banjo on stage playing tunes like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” which can be heard in the solo part. Phantom and Rocker provide “I Wanna Cry”, sung by Lee, that owes more to their solo stuff than the Stray Cats. And when I listen to the guitar solo (a crappy heavy metal mush) I wouldn’t swear that Setzer plays on it but blame Earl Slick for it. Finally the three of them join forces to write “I’m A Rocker”. Nothing original here just a solid rocker with a strong train rhythm and two wild guitar solos but that’s enough. “Change Of Heart” is something different from what the Stray Cats ever released, more pop, but eventually very pleasant. After this session they returned to their respective solo career but quickly reformed the Stray Cats, this time for good, in late 1988.


Stray Cats - Blast Off
Stray Cats – Blast Off

Stray Cats – Blast Off

EMI [1989]
Blast off – Gina – Everybody needs rock n roll – Gene and Eddie – Rockabilly rules – Bring it back again – Slip slip slippin in – Rockabilly world – Rockin’ all over the place – Nine lives
In 1988, after respective solo careers not entirely convincing – to say the least – Setzer, Phantom and Rocker reunited and went back to what they do the best : rockabilly. Even the fourth Stray Cat (like George Martin could be the fifth Beatle) Dave Edmunds was back in the producer’s seat. Slim Jim Phantom said “It’s probably our most rockabilly effort” and he’s right. Rockabilly with a modern edge and a 90’s sound but the backbone is here. They cover Eddie Bond’s “Slip, Slip Slippin’ In”, and half of the songs borrow to 50’s rockabilly tunes. “Gina” is a Buddy Holly influenced song with Phantom adding a floor tom to get the Jerry Allison pattern, “Blast Off” sounds like “Jungle Rock” on speed but has good enough lyrics to be original, “Everybody Needs Rock’n’ Roll” bears more than one common point with Glen Glenn’s Everybody’s Movin and of course “Gene And Eddie”, Setzer’s tribute to these two pioneers is very effective if not very original (the song is made of various verses from Vincent and Cochran songs). “Rockabilly Rules, Ok” – the title says it all – and “Rockabilly World” reinforce the rockabilly orientation and you also have a clear attempt to chart with the more commercial “Bring It Back Again” lifted as a potential single (sadly it’ll fail to climb very high). The best track is “Nine Lives” a jazzy variation around “Stray Cats Strut”, with clever lyrics, outstanding guitar solo and vocal from Setzer. Indeed this album marks a turning point in Setzer’s vocal. He seems more confident in his talent as singer and his voice has gone deeper and more mature. This album may suffer the lack of powerful hits (like Stray Cats Strut, Rock This Town or Runaway Boys) and originality (four songs out of ten with the word rock in the title might sound a bit cliché). Nevertheless it’s a solid rock album, very well produced and most of all, the listener can feel the fun and the joy to play together. The gigs to promote this one were good, energetic and fans had big hopes for the next album. Alas, a big disappointment was waiting for them.


Stray Cats - Let's Go Faster
Stray Cats – Let’s Go Faster

Stray cats – Let’s Go faster

Liberation records D30519 (AUS) [1990]
Toshiba-EMI TOCP 6520 (JAP)

Cross of love – Town without pity – Shotgun baby – Struck by lighting twice – Thing about you- Baby don’t drag me down – Tight black leather – Give it to me – Let’s go faster – Keep on running – Runaway train – Gonna be your rock (Japan only)
“We wanted to try something new”, is what Setzer said in 1991 about this album. Probably disillusioned by the lack of success of “Blast Off”, the Stray Cats hired producer Nile Rodgers (Chic, David Bowie, Madonna…). On the paper this association sounded quite weird, in reality it was even worse. At best the result sounds like Setzer solo stuff (and some songs come from his solo period: Cross Of Love, Thing About You) and at worse you have bad and already out of fashion 80’s new wave. Very little can be saved from this wreck : “Let’s Go Faster” (nothing original but a solid rock song with a riff ala Eddie Cochran), “Give It To Me” another one written with Buddy Holly in mind and on the contemporary side “Keep On Running”. The remaining songs are mostly weak and the production is weaker. Looking for a modern (and a chart appealing) sound the band has lost its identity and its specificity. The result is the absence of the slap bass (replaced by an electric bass) a key element of their sound the same way the Gretsch and the stand-up snare are. Probably disappointed by the result the band issued “Let’s go Faster” only in Japan and Australia. Later a bootleg album appeared with the demos. The lame songs stayed lame, but at least the good ones weren’t wasted by the production.
The Japanese edition has a bonus track called “Gonna Be Your Rock” which is, in my own opinion, in good place for the title of “Worst Stray Cats song ever”.


Stray Cats - Choo Choo Hot Fish
Stray Cats – Choo Choo Hot Fish

Stray Cats – Choo Choo Hot Fish

Pump Records – 50286 [1992]
Elvis On Velvet – Cry Baby – Please Don’t Touch – Sleepwalk – Lust’n’Love – Cross Of Love – Beautiful Blues – Can’t Go Back To Memphis – Jade Idol – My Heart Is A Liar – Let’s Go Faster – Mystery Train
“Choo Choo Hot Fish” can be seen as the successful version of “Let’s Go Faster”. It is innovative yet still with a feet in the tradition and is their most ambitious effort to date. It also sees the return of Dave Edmunds behind the glass.

The opening track is representative of that mood, pumping sound, modern drums mixed with rockabilly elements for a tribute to Elvis. Next is “Cry Baby”, a non retro melodic rockabilly tune. It is an instant Stray Cats classic and has that timeless sound that makes the trio so special. And with Edmunds on second guitar and on duet vocal it reminds the good old days of “The Race Is On”.

Johnny Kidd’s Please Don’t Touch rocks like hell in Setzer and Rocker setlist in their respective solo careers. Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” appears here for the first time, long before the orchestra and the Grammy Award. Though I grew rapidly tired of the heavy orchestra version, this one still sounds fresh today.

Both “Lust’n’Love” and “Can’t Go Back To Memphis” harden the sound with heavy guitar and Jim hittin’ the drums as hard as he can. “Lust’n’ Love” keeps the backbone of rockabilly while “Can’t Go Back…” is not that far from ZZ Top and it’s very interesting to listen to this album today and compare it with Setzer’s most recent albums (“Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy” and “13”). Many elements were already presents 15 years earlier. In the same vein is “Cross of Love”. I suppose that Setzer saw a lot of potential in this one as he recorded it twice before this album (once on “Let’s Go Faster” and once during his first solo stint between 86-88).

The best song to appear on “Choo Choo Hot Fish” is “Beautiful Blues” co-written with Larson Paine. It’s a splendid jazzy song with rich gipsy chords, astounding solo and superb brushwork from Slim Jim. Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of his drumkit this guy can really play. “Jade Idol” proves it too. This is a stunning atmospheric instrumental that would fit a James Bond movie to perfection. My definition for this kind of tune is “Music to drink Martini with…”. “My Heart Is A Liar” is a fine acoustic ballad in the vein of Chris Isaak with once again a rich assortment of percussion. The last two numbers are solid rockers.

A new version of “Let’s Go Faster” far better and richer than the previous one (courtesy of Dave Edmunds and his good sound) and a “Hey we have 5 minutes left in the studio how about doing a Elvis song?” version of Mystery Train. They clearly recorded this one live and it perfectly captures the feel and the excitement of the band. It also features a yodel part from Mr Setzer. Funny to see an album opening on Elvis On Velvet and ending on Mystery Train.

Sadly, “Choo Choo Hot Fish didn’t touch a large audience.


Stray Cats - Original Cool
Stray Cats – Original Cool

Stray cats – Original Cool

Toshiba [1993]
Somethin’ Else – Oh Boy – 20 Flight Rock – I Fought The Law – Lonesome Tears – Your True Love – Be-Bop-A-Lula – Blue Jean Bop – Can’t Help Falling In Love – Flying Saucers Rock ‘n Roll – Train Kept A Rollin’ – Stood Up – Let It Rock – Trying To Get To You – Chet Ditty (Hidden Charms)

The Stray Cats last studio album was a bit of a disappointment. Of course Setzer gives some of his best vocal performance (listen to Ricky Nelson’s Stood Up) and the band is on top form (with Jeffrey Baxter guesting on steel guitar). Even the production, though a bit slick is not that bad. But why, at this point of their career release an all cover album, especially of songs that one has heard a zillion times. This great band really deserved a better career ending than this “not-good-nor-bad” album.


Stray Cats - Live in Europe
Stray Cats – Live in Europe

Stray Cats – Live in Europe

Surfdog Records 44045 to 44059 [2004]
Neo-rockabilly kings the Stray Cats produced some mighty fine records, but were mainly known for their wild and furious Rockabilly live shows. Strangely, they never issued an official live album, letting the door opened to a bunch of bootleggers. When they reformed in summer 2004 for an European tour the Stray Cats must have thought that this time they won’t let bootleggers make money on their back. The result is here, 17 gigs and 15 cd’s. Don’t look for booklets, photos of the show etc. The covers design is the same for all, except the colour. Musically, the sound is not top quality, they manufactured them very quickly and they didn’t take time to produce ‘em. I know many bootlegs that sound better than that. So depending on the records, you can’t hear the drums, have too much bass etc. Why they didn’t put the whole shows on the cd’s (only 17 songs, no more no less) is the first question one will ask? But the answer seems evident when you realize that the songs that are not on Paris are on Bruxelles and so on… It really looks like an economic choice as they know that many fans will buy a maximum records to have all the songs. In other hand it’s good to hear tunes the Stray Cats rarely performed live (18 Miles to Memphis, Rev it up and Go), a few covers never played on album (Unchained Melody, in french for Paris ; That’s All Right, Blue Moon Of Kentucky celebrating the 50 years of rock’n’roll; Red Hot). But I think this records concern mostly those who attended the shows. But if you weren’t there and want to buy one, I’d recommend the second part of the tour as the band is getting better and better (too bad that I went to Paris, the opening show of the tour).


Stray Cats - 20/20
Stray Cats – 20/20

Stray Cats – 20\20

Arista – 74321131172
Runaway Boys – Rock This Town – Can’t Hurry Love – Rumble In Brighton – Stray Cat Strut – Double Talkin’ Baby – Cross That Bridge – Baby Blue Eyes – Built For Speed – (She’s) Sexy + 17 – Lookin’ Better Every Beer – Cruisin’ – Lucky Charm (Ooh Wee Suzy) – I Won’t Stand In Your Way (a cappella) – Look At That Cadillac – Rebels Rule – Looking Out My Backdoor- Drink That Bottle Down -Sweet Love On My Mind -Something Else
20/20 is probably one of the best (if not the best) Stray Cats compilation or best-of ever released. Not only it contains the well-known and best songs from the first three albums (the Arista years) but what makes the difference with the other releases is that it also contains the b-sides and some rarities most of them being unavailable on cd before.
It includes covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Supremes, Gene Vincent but also originals like the excellent jump blues « Lucky Charm » (b-side of Look At That Cadilac), the a Cappella version of « I Won’t Stand In Your Way », the country tinged « Looking Better Every Beer », and « Built For Speed » the original that gave its name to the compilation album gathering Stray Cats and Gonna Ball for the American market.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Stray Cats - 40
Stray Cats – 40

Stray Cats – 40

Surfdog / Mascot M75895

Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me) – Rock It Off – I’ve Got Love If You Want It – Cry Danger – I Attract Trouble – Three Time’s A Charm – That’s Messed Up – When Nothing’s Going Right – Desperado – Mean Pickin’ Mama – I’ll Be Looking Out For You – Devil Train – Cry Baby (Live) (Bonus Track – Deluxe CD only) – Double Talkin’ Baby (Live) (Bonus Track – Deluxe CD only)

The first three Stray Cats albums blew me away. Maybe Gonna Ball had some fillers but these initial trilogy was perfect. After that, and the 1984 split, their albums were either good (Blast Off, Choo Choo Hot Fish thanks to the Edmunds touch), forgettable (Original Cool, Rock Therapy) or simply plain bad (Let’s Go Faster.)

However, on stage, they were still one of the best rockin’ band on the planet. So when the trio announced that they would record a brand new album full of original material, though I tried not to be too excited, the teenager inside me was smiling from one ear to another.

The name of Peter Collins to produce the forthcoming album surprised me. Even if he produced Setzer’s Dirty Boogie and Rockabilly Riot, Peter Collins was notorious for his work with Bon Jovi, Rush and Nick Kershaw to name but three. Nothing to make me feel that he was the ideal guy to replace Dave Edmunds. Most of all he was the producer who sabotaged the Stargazers’ Ain’t Nobody But Here but us Chickens.
The cover design also came like a warning. Here came guys who didn’t release anything for 25 years and to celebrate that they used the laziest design and ugliest cover possible. Hum…

I carefully changed my mind little by little and came to the conclusion that I would be happy with a basic Rockabilly album.
Then Cat Fight the first song was released. Nothing too original. A rock’n’roll song like you’ve heard a thousand times before. At that moment I was kinda resigned, this is not gonna be great, maybe good, at least average. But both Rock It Off, a rip off of Eddie Cochran’s My Way and Cry Danger a recycling of the riff of Aztec on Setzer’s debut solo album almost sealed the fate of that album for me: don’t expect anything.

I finally received the album and my fears were soon confirmed. It’s a shame that a band that returns with a new record after such a long hiatus didn’t put more work in it. The compositions are at best average (Mean Pickin’ Mama which is at least a Rockabilly number) but most of the time the term ‘lazy’ pops to mind. From the boogie blues riff of the aptly named That’s messed up that you’ve heard a zillion times to Three Time’s A Charm which is nothing but a variation of Setzer’s Hot Rod Girl, or I’ve Got Love that borrows its intro to Ubangi Stomp and its melody to You’re Humbuggin’ Me (Lefty Frizzell, Fabulous Thunderbirds…) and Desperado an instrumental which is a carbon copy of the Shadows’ Apache, it’s hard to believe Setzer when he says in mumerous interviews that he started writing these songs one year ago. Actually many songs sound like an embarassing caricature of Setzer’s Live Nude Guitar or Let’s Go Faster when trio tries to venture into unfamiliar territories (I Attract Trouble with what a surprise a quote of Pipeline).

It’s kinda weird to have Lee Rocker say “We are the best band that has ever played this music.” and find so few Rockabilly (even with a wide definition of it) on ‘40’.

And the production doesn’t help either. The drums sound buried and muddy and the fans of Lee Rocker will be surprised to find barely no slap on that album.
A couple of years ago I regretted that the Stray Cats ended their recording career with the uninspired Original Cool, but listening to this poorly written and badly produced effort, it was not that bad, after all.

PS – Don’t expect the so called “deluxe” version (two live tracks, two stickers, two coasters and a postcard) to save things.


Stray Cats – Rocked This Town From La To London

stray catsSurfdog records 85968-2 [2020]
Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me) – Runaway Boys – Too Hip, Gotta Go -Double Talkin’ Baby -Three Time’s a Charm – Stray Cat Strut -Mean Pickin’ Mama -Gene & Eddie -Cry Baby -I Won’t Stand in Your Way -Cannonball Rag – Misirlou – When Nothing’s Going Right – (She’s) Sexy + 17 -Bring It Back Again -My One Desire -Lust ‘n’ Love -Fishnet Stockings -Rock This Town -Rock It Off -Built for Speed -Rumble in Brighton

Despite what its title may suggest, “Rocked this town, from LA to London” is not a testimony of the Stray Cats’ latest international tour to promote 40. Setzer Rocker and Phantom recorded it in various US cities (but not in LA), and some of the songs were even recorded during the 2018 tour.
That said, it’s an excellent live album. It’s very well recorded, and the band is in fine form (way better than the 2004 tour). Moreover, it features five songs from 40. Not only they sound way better than the poorly produced studio versions, but it adds some diversity to the usual setlists of the band that turned to be quite repetitive over the years. It also features two instrumentals (Cannonball Rag and Misirlou.) Besides these two tunes and Double Talkin’ Baby and My One Desire on the vinyl version, the set focuses on the band’s songs rather than covers, thus allowing some place for a song like Lust’ n’Love. I was a bit sad to find no songs from Gonna Ball but with only 23 songs, I suppose that you have to made choices.
After all these years, the Stray Cats, especially on stage, still remain the kings of modern Rockabilly, and this live album is here to confirm that.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Barnshakers

The Barnshakers ‎– Whiskey River / Hollow Grave 

Goofin’ Records ‎– GRSI 224 [2012]

Another excellent single released by the Barnshakers. The A-side is a cover of Johnny Bush’s Whiskey River, also a hit for Willie Nelson. They deliver a superb muscled-up version with powerful slap bass and intense vocal by Vesa.
The flip is an excellent Rockabilly with harmony vocals, typical of the style of the band.


the Barnshakers - Twenty one
the Barnshakers – Twenty one

The Barnshakers – Twenty One

Goofin Records GRCD6130
Twenty-One – Come On – Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop – Have A Ball – Knock Knock Rattle – Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby – Yah! I’m Movin’ – Wiggle Like A Worm.

Very good mini cd from the Barnshakers, one of the best, if not the best european band in activity made of one studio track and seven live recording. The studio track “Twenty One”, a Vesa Haaja’s own, is an immediate addictive song with its great vocal and lead guitar part and the piano support. This song proves how right they were to add a piano in their line-up. The live show, with the exception of “Wiggle Like A Worm” is made of covers and songs that were never recorded in the studio by the band. This gives another interest to this record to hear them playing classic songs by Wynn Stewart (Come On), Lew Williams (Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop) and Carl Perkins (Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby). The set ends with a frantic Vesa singing and screaming on “Yah! I’m Movin’” and “Wiggle Like A Worm” with Lester playing Burlisonnian licks. By far the best cut of this record. An advice, if you want it, you should hurry as the cover states it’s a limited release…


The Barnshakers - the single album
The Barnshakers – the single album

The Barnshakers – The Single album

Goofin Records GRCD6126 {2004}
She Done Quit Me – So Doggone Blue – Big Sandy – Ooh’ Baby -Complicated Fool – Who’s Gonna Be The Next One Honey – When I Take My Sugar To Tea – Take One – Wiggle Like A Worm – Choo Choo’s Coming Back – Desperate Santa – Santa’s Got A Brand New Steel Pedal – Hocus Pocus – Gone A-Rockin’ – You’re The Cause Of It All – Tell My Baby I Love Her – Move On – What’cha Gonna Do – Boppin’ In Roswell – Raining In My Heart – What’cha Doin’ To Me – Lotta Lotta Women

It’s a good idea to issue all the Barnshakers singles on one cd as some are not that easy to find. You can also see the evolution of the band through the years from the rockabilly of the beginning to the addition of a piano player and the touch of boogie of today. The first single shows what a good songwriter Jussi Huhtakangas (aka Lester Peabody) is, too bad he doesn’t write more songs. Vesa, the lead singer and main writer wrote my two favourite songs on the cd issued from the Xmas single «Desperate Santa» and the great «Santa’s got a brand new pedal steel». You got some covers too and a song penned by Shaun Young. So what could you ask for more ? Unissued material ? You’ve got it, two new songs recorded in 2004. So I guess you understood this record is a must have for all Barnshakers and rockabilly fans everywhere.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Barnshakers
The Barnshakers (left to right: Mike Salminen, Vesa Haaja, Mika Liikari, Lester Peabody).

Deke Dickerson

Deke and the Whippersnappers – Deke And The Whippersnappers

Pig Baby Records – PBR-018 [2020]
Here Kitty, Kitty – Besame Mucho – Wild Wild One – The Girls Gone Rockin’

With just two guitars and one double-bass, it’s back to basic for Deke Dickerson on this new EP.
The Whippersnappers are Bert Avalos (the Moontones) on rhythm guitar and Zander Griffith (Reckless Ones) on double-bass.
They take Jimmy Murphy’s Here Kitty Kitty at the same pace than the original, but they muscle it a bit, and the result is a superb Rockabilly with fine pickin’ and a slap bass solo in the middle.
Besame Mucho sounds halfway between El Cumbachero and Walk Don’t Run.
Wild Wild Thing, a cover of Billy Golden’s 1968 Starday single, is a solid country tune with twangy guitar, tailored-made for Dickerson’s voice.
Surprinsingly, the sole original comes from the pen of Avalos and Griffith. It’s a frantic Rockabilly, very classic in its form but the musicianship makes the difference.
Hopefully, this line-up will soon record an album very soon.

Deke Dickerson & The Sex-Phonics – Morocco Twist

Deke Dickerson Morocco twist

Sleazy Records – SR172 [2019]
Morocco Twist / Barefoot Blues

During one of his tours of Spain, Dickerson teamed up with a bunch of Spanish musicians to record this single.
Side A is an instrumental with twin guitars and Hammond organ. It’s a surf tune with an Oriental vibe and a touch of twist.
The B-side is a Rock’n’roll number in a Chuck Berry vein with vocals.


Big Sandy vs. Deke Dickerson – Jesus & Gravy

Big Sandy vs Deke Dickerson

Sleazy Records SR142 [2018]
Make A Little Time For Jesus / Get The Gravy Hot

This release is a split single between Big Sandy (side A) and Deke Dickerson (side B).
Fellow Fly Right Boys Ashley Kingman and Kevin Stewart back Big Sandy, helped by Chris Sprague on drums and Ernie Vargas on tambourine. Make A Little Time For Jesus finds him, with no surprise, in full-gospel mode. The man who penned songs like Between Darkness and Dawn, Thru Dreamin’, and many others, has been more inspired in the past.
You’ll find the same musicians backing Deke Dickerson, but Kingman switched to 6-string bass, and Stewart plays electric-bass. The song, a cover of Shotgun Red, is an excellent country rocker that suits Deke’s voice and style to a T.


deke dickerson echosonic eldorado
Deke Dickerson – Echosonic Eldorado

Deke Dickerson – Echosonic Eldorado

Major Label MLCD 006
Little Innocent – I’m Gettin’ Your Message, Baby – Sneakin’ All Around – Forbidden Love – My Baby Don’t Love Me Anymore – Bop Wax – Don’t That Prove I Love You – Big Guitar – My Eyes On You (with Duane Eddy) – Cut Loose – Echosonic Eldorado – Deke’s Boogie Blues – 40th & Plum – I’ve Lived A Lot In My Time

Whereas Deke’s latest studio album, King Of the Whole Wide World, blended together rockabilly, western swing, rock’n’roll, country soul, honky tonk and more, Deke Dickerson’s Echosonic Eldorado stays within the boundaries of rock’n’roll and rockabilly.
One can hear the influences of Johnny Burnette (Little Innocent), Gene Vincent (Bop Wax sounds like a mix between Bop Street and Crazy Legs) and a lot of Sun sound, helped on that by guest pianist Carl Sonny Leynand in full Jerry Lee Lewis mode. Another Sun connection is the presence of Scotty Moore who introduced via an answer machine the instrumental Echosonic Eldorado. The term Echosonic came from the amplifier used by Moore on the early Elvis recordings and that’s no surprise to find Moore inspired riffs in that instrumental but with the Dickerson’s touch. Another guest is none other than Duane Eddy who lays his instantly identifiable twangy guitar on “My Eyes On You“. With lyrics like “I got a shiny Cadillac car, I got Duane Eddy on guitar” I can easily imagine the smile upon Dickerson’s face during the session. Another highlight is Deke’s Boogie Blues, close to Frogman Henry’s Ain’t Got No Home. As usual with Dickerson, the vocal is, throughout the album, perfect and no need to say that the guitar is hot. Beside the already mentionned Carl Sonny Leyland and in addition to Dickerson on guitar, bass and some piano, Chrsi Sprague sings some backing and harmony vocals and Crazy Joe completes the line-up on drums.
Needless to say that you must have it.


Deke Dickerson w/ Nikki Hill - Soul Meets Country
Deke Dickerson w/ Nikki Hill – Soul Meets Country

Deke Dickerson – Soul Meets Country

Major Label Records MLCD-007 [2013]
Lovey Dovey – Feelins – Struttin’ – Lady Killa
Hot off the press here comes Deke Dickerson’s newest ep, available on both cd and vinyl format (downloads available too). If you liked his previous single cut in Memphis with the Bo-Keys, no doubt that you will LOVE this one. Not only Deke Dickerson reunited with the Bo-Keys for four sides of juicy Memphis soul but he also had the good idea to team with rock’n’roll and rhythm’n’ blues diva Nikki Hill. Side A features two Hill-Dickerson duets, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas’ Lovey Dovey and Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s Feelins. Country meets Soul or what? Side B contains Struttin‘ sung by Nikki Hill alone and a new country funk version (with Wah-wah) of Deke’s Lady Killin’ Papa named here Lady Killa. Superb.
www.dekedickerson.com/shopping/merch3.php


dekedickersonandthebokeysDeke Dickerson and the Bo-Keys – Country Meets Soul

Love man / hello Darlin’
Major Label ML45-1

Country soul anyone? Deke recorded this new single with the mighty Bo-Keys and featuring the no less talented Joel Paterson on pedal steel guitar. The result is a killer double A sides (Otis Redding’s Love Man and Conway Twitty’s Hello Darlin’) sounding like a mix between a 60’s country band with a bit of Charlie Rich in it and backed by the Mar-Keys or Booker T. Beautiful 180gr sleeve too.


Deke Dickerson - Live at Duff's
Deke Dickerson – Live at Duff’s

Deke Dickerson – Live At Duff

Intro and Mexicali Rose – Snatch It and Grab It – Early American – Run Red Run – I’m a Lover Not a Fighter – Ain’t No Grave Deep Enough – Good Time Gal – Misshapen Hillbilly Gal – I’ll Go Down Swingin’ – Honky Tonk Nighttime Man- Make Way for a Better Man – End of the Road – Lover Come Back to Me – Hello Darlin’- I Never Cared for You – Muleskinner Blues – El Cumbanchero

Live albums are pretty rare on the “reviva” rockin’ scene. I don’t know why , maybe the reason is that it gets tough to release albums nowadays and artists want to concentrate on studio stuff, or because some of them, touring a lot, want to propose something different on wax.
Anyway, Deke’s latest output is a live album. And not only this stands as one of the best live album I’ve heard, it could possibly be Deke’s best album. Nothing less.

It was recorded when Dickerson was on tour with the excellent Chicago combo The Modern Sounds (they now have a couple of cd of their own and one backing Eddie Clendening – all excellent check them out!). The Modern Sounds are guitar wizard Joel Paterson who also plays steel and harp, slap bassist Beau Sample and drummer extraordinaire Alex Hall who doubles on piano too.
Dickerson and band play a storming set of rockabilly/rock’n’roll (Jerry Lee’s End of the Road features Hall on piano and Dickerson giving his best Jimmy Van Eaton impersonation). He also takes good advantage of Paterson’s skills on steel guitar to delve further into country and western sounds whether it’s classic honky tonk (Porter Wagoner’s I’ll Go Down Swingin’, Conway Twitty’s Hello Darlin), western swing (Misshapen Hillbilly Gal) or Willie Nelson (Nelson is a genre of its own).
There’s also two instrumentals, Deke’s El Cumbachero and Joe Maphis and Larry Collins’ Early American (with a second guitarist like Paterson it must be hard to resist I guess)
But this album has more to offer. Dickerson once joked – it was on West Coast Ramble I guess – that he was “the whitest man in show-business. Whenever I try to sound like Louis Jordan I end up sounding like Bill Haley”. Of couse it’s wrong but the Modern Sounds allow him to explore style he rarely ventured in. It was a total blast to hear him play Lazy Lester’s I’m A Lover Not A Fighter (with Paterson on harmonica) but most of all he felt confident enough to sing a classic jazz tune like « Lover Come Back to Me », seriously and not as a joke. And he’s right cause he never sounded that well as a singer.
It’s a joint release from Deke’s Major Label and Paterson’s Ventrella and like all Ventrella albums it’s superbly designed and comes in a beautiful digipack.


Deke Dickerson - King of the Whole Wide World
Deke Dickerson – King of the Whole Wide World

Deke Dickerson – King of the Whole Wide World

Major Label Records MLCD-003
King of the Whole Wide World (introduction) – Deep River – I Can’t Wait To See You (Go) – Misshapen Hillbilly Gal – Put Me Down – Boone County Blues – Make Way for a Better Man – Itchin’ for My Baby – Do You Think of Me – Fool’s Gold – Trumpet – Early for the Bell – Bomb Shelter (for My Heart) – Double-Clutchin’- King of the Whole Wide World (reprise)
When you think about it, there are only a couple of things that never deceive you . Deke Dickerson’s ability to craft some of the best roots inspired albums is one of these things. But that doesn’t mean he’s predictable, far from that.
Gathering an impressive cast of musicians (as he says himself it could have been called “with a little help from my friends”) like Crazy Joe, Jimmy Sutton, Pete Curry and his partner in crime Chris Sugarballs Sprague, Deke (who plays guitar, bass, drums, baritone sax in addition to his fine singing) adds to a discography that is already faultless one of the richest album of his career and probably my favorite (if you’re interested). He offers a musical journey into american music proving that the label “rockabilly” is by far too restrictive for such an amount of talent.
The title track features just Deke and his guitar in a Jimmie Rodger’s mood with 78’s crackle for good effect. It then kicks off with “Deep River” (an old bluegrass number turned into a straight ahead rock’n’roll) and Dickerson’s “I can’t wait to see you go” featuring the great Carl Sonny Leyland on piano in a Jerry Lee’s mood. Carl also plays on Lewis’ “Put Me Down”, “Bomb Shelter (For My Heart)” another fine country-rocker, “Trumpet” a Malcom Yelvington cover and “Early For The Bell” a song that’ll make every King Cole Trio or Slim Gaillard afficionados happy. Talking about swing, The Lucky Stars (with Crazy Joe) back up Deke on the hilarious western swing number “Misshapen Hillbilly Gal” which is a reason good enough to buy this album.
Mitch Polzak (from the Royal Deuces) guests on banjo for the bluegrass inspired “Boone County Blues”, with top class harmony vocals. Man, as I write this, I realize that I’ll soon run out of superlative anyway, let’s continue. “Make Way For A Better Man” is a Wille Nelson song, but Dickerson adds a heavy dose of soul in it and turns it into a Charlie Rich tune. The basic track of the Honky Tonk “Do You Think Of Me” was recorded in Austin with Dave Biller, Billy Horton and Lisa Pankratz. The always talented Crazy Joe plays a mean 6-string bass solo on this one and to complete this masterpiece Mary Huff from Southern Culture On The Skids adds “ethereal high vocals” (like she did on “Rumors Of Surf”). The album ends with “Double Clutchin'”, an instrumental co-written with Crazy Joe (think Les Paul meets Joe Maphis) and a reprise of “King Of the Whole Wide World”.
Now you’ve understood that this is an absolute “must have” and your next click will lead you to Deke’s website to order it.


Deke Dickerson - Deke Down Under !
Deke Dickerson – Deke Down Under !

Deke Dickerson – Deke Down Under !

My Baby Don’t Love Me Anymore – Cut Loose – Eefin’ Rock – Hey Worm
Deke is back with this EP with both the cd and the vinyl version. It has been recorded in Australia in 2004, while Deke was on tour there, at the legendary Preston Studios. Preston provided great rockabilly and blues on their label (remember the “Aussiebilly” comp on Nervous or more recently Benny & The Fly-By Niters). Back to the record now. The sound and the variety of songs (even if there are only 4) are not that far from “The Melody”. The opening is a Johnny Paycheck tune but is given a rock’n’roll treatment with a good piano drive played by Deke himself. You can easily imagine Jerry Lee playing it like this. “Cut Loose” is a good rockin’ song, with frantic piano and savage guitar and probably one of the wildest tune Dickerson recorded under his name. With a name like “Eefin’ Rock” you know what to expect from this song. Imagine some Link Wray instrumental with handclaps and right in the middle “eefin”. Little Jimmy Dickens’s Hey Worm closes the set. His version is more western swing and less rural than the original. Great guitar solos supported by a swingin’ rhythm section. This one should be in every collection, but hurry folks it’s a limited print of 1000. You’ll find it on Deke’s website (www.dekedickerson.com).


Deke Dickerson - The Melody
Deke Dickerson – The Melody

Deke Dickerson – The Melody

Major Label MLCD-002
Broken Heart – Good Time Gal – Right or Wrong – Looks Like I’m in Trouble Again – As Long as I Live – Safely In Love – Love Is Like a Song – Someone Used to Love Me – Mister Cheater – Waitin’ on My Baby – Give Me All Your Love – Tell Me How – Double Naught Spy – Lookin’ for Money – I Never Cared for You
Here’s the new record from this very prolific and multi talented guy. Deke has now a bunch of records behind his belt but this is really the first to give me that feeling : a real album (you see, in the 60’s meaning of the term) more than a collection of singles. It doesn’t mean all the songs sound the same. Deke is too talented to stick on one style. So you’ll find some rockabilly (The moonlighters’s Broken heart, Buddy Holly’s Tell me How), country music with Good Time Gal and Willie Nelson’s I never cared for you (I’ve always thought that Willie Nelson was like the Rolling Stones : far better when they were covered by other artists), a great instrumental that could be the original score for a B-movie. You also find a lot of Roy orbison inspiration behind songs like Mister Cheater and Safely in Love. And this shows what a good singer Deke is. We all know he’s a great guitar player, but now he seems to do what he wants with his voice. Musicians don’t have to be forgotten too : Chris Sprague on drums (The Sprague Brothers) and Jimmy Sutton (Four Charms) on bass (acoustic and electric) with appearances by Carl Leyland (who else?) and Dave Berzansky (Hacienda brothers). In the liner notes you can read «This album is a concept album». Sure, but Deke always makes concept album, and the concept is always the same: quality.


Deke Dickerson - Live on the Radio
Deke Dickerson – Live on the Radio

Deke Dickerson – Live on the Radio

Well, this one is a very limited edition as it seems that only 50 copies were made and you only found it on Deke’s website. Too bad that it hasn’t a bigger distrisbution cause it’s really a must have. First the band : the Ecco-fonics here are Chris «Sugarballs» Sprague (from The Sprague Brothers) on drums and some vocals and Wally Hersom (do I need to introduce him?) on bass. Then the songs. Apart those that are almost classics in Deke’s repertoire (Red Headed Woman, I might not come home at all, Mexicalli Rose) you find Dave and Deke Combo songs (Tally Ho, Chrome Dome) and what makes this record valuable : covers not on records (All I can do is cry, flight on the bumble bee twist, Stray Cats Strut played like Louis Armstrong) and songs that will be on Deke next album. And believe me, if the other songs are like the ones you find here, it’s gonna be a killer ! They play all those great tunes in a semi-unplugged sound (it’s live on the radio) and the whole show comes with ads between the songs and you have a great interview to end.Try Deke’s website at www.dekedickerson.com, maybe he still have a spare copy, cause if you haven’t heard Sugarball’s campaign song, you haven’t heard nothing.


Deke Dickerson - Live on the Radio
Deke Dickerson – Live on the Radio

Deke Dickerson – In 3 Dimensions

Major Label MLCD 001
I Might Not Come Home At All ~ Top Of The Line ~ Ain’t Got A Reason ~ I Get So Lonely ~ Sittin’ And Thinkin’ ~ Wear Out The Soles Of My Shoes ~ Take The Long Way Home ~ It Would Be A Doggone Lie ~ Let’s Go Wild Tonight ~ Bitter Tears ~ You’ve Been Honky Tonkin’ ~ Too Hot Too Handle ~ Knoxville Boogie ~ Gambler’s Guitar ~ Pinball Boogie ~ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ~ I’m Gonna Live Some Before I Die.

This is Deke’s fourth album and the first on which he’s not backed by the Ecco-Fonics, whoever they can be. As the title says, Deke cut himself in three, playing three different styles with three different bands: Rock’n’roll, Rockabilly and Western Swing.
The Rock’n’roll part is the occasion to hear the swing of veteran Earl Palmer (Little Richard, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Willie Nelson and so many others) on drums. He really adds something else to the tune. Bust most of all, what hits you is Deke’s voice. Album after album his voice has matured and he proves he’s a subtle and classy singer with Charlie Rich’s Sittin and Thinkin. The rockabilly segment follows with 5 songs. It’s the more predictable part but contains the excellent Wear Out the Sole Of My Shoes and Bitter Tears closes the set on a high note. For the last part, “Hillbilly Deke”, Dickerson gathered the super hillbilly band with no less than Dave Biller (guitar), Jeremy Wakefield (steel), Bobby Trimble (drums) and Billy Horton (double bass). It’s a festival of swing, guitar and steel (Pinball Boogie), always sung with taste (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Bob Wills’ Fat Boy Rag as hidden track.
Deke Dickeson in 3 Dimensions means three times more of pleasure.

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys

Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys – Sing and Play the Songs of Freddy Fender

Baldemar Records BR-201 & BR-202 [2020]
Before the Next Teardrop Falls – I Can’t Remember When I Didn’t Love You
Wasted Days and Wasted Nights – Holy One

Freddy Fender, born Baldemar Huerta hence the name of the label, was a versatile singer and songwriter. It’s no surprise to find Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys paying tribute to the man on this superb double 45 set. Like him, the band played Rock’n’roll, Rockabilly, Doo-Wop, and so on, and Fender’s influence can clearly be heard in some of Big Sandy’s intonations.
Each disc contains a hit and a lesser-known gem from the Fender’s early days.
Side A of disc one is Before the Next Teardrop Falls, Fender’s best-known song. It’s a tough job to sing it after Fender, not only because he sings it perfectly (an understatement if there is one) but also because this song is so much associated with him. Despite all that, the result is one of Big Sandy’s best vocal performance, perfectly supported by Ashley Kingman on Spanish guitar.
On side B, I Can’t Remember When I Didn’t Love You sees the band returning to its Rockabilly roots. It’s also the perfect vehicle to hear the skills of Kevin Stewart on bass and Kip Dabbs on drums.
The second 45 features the swamp pop Wasted Days and Wasted Nights. If the vocal is flawless, this is Kingman who steals the show on this one with a fantastic scorching guitar solo.
On the flip, the Doo-Wop Holy One, featuring Uncle Ernie Vargas, Alex Vargas, and Lil’ Ernie Vargas on backing vocals, evokes the best moments of Dedicated to You.
It’s a limited edition of 1000 copies, but it also exists on CD, and Sleazy records licensed it with a different cover.
Whatever the format, grab a copy here!

Big Sandy vs. Deke Dickerson – Jesus & Gravy

Sleazy Records SR142 [2018]
Make A Little Time For Jesus / Get The Gravy Hot

This release is a split single between Big Sandy (side A) and Deke Dickerson (side B).
Fellow Fly Right Boys Ashley Kingman and Kevin Stewart back Big Sandy, helped by Chris Sprague on drums and Ernie Vargas on tambourine. Make A Little Time For Jesus finds him, with no surprise, in full-gospel mode. The man who penned songs like Between Darkness and Dawn, Thru Dreamin’, and many others, has been more inspired in the past.
You’ll find the same musicians backing Deke Dickerson, but Kingman switched to 6-string bass, and Stewart plays electric-bass. The song, a cover of Shotgun Red, is an excellent country rocker that suits Deke’s voice and style to a T.

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - Fine, Fine, Superfine
Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Fine, Fine, Superfine

Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Fine, Fine, Superfine / Everytime

Ruby records {2016}
It’s the first release of a brand new label, Ruby records, launched by Ruby Ann and Tom Ingram and it comes in a beautifully designed sleeve. And what a better choice to lauch a label than Big Sandy? Even though it’s only a single and we desperately need a brand new album, it’s always good to have a new release by today’s finest purveyor of Rock’n’roll, the man with the velvet voice himself, Mister Big Sandy. Not to forget the Fly-Rite Boys who are Ashley Kingman on guitar (23 years or so of service), Kevin Stewart and newcomer Ricky McCann on drums.
It was a very good surprise to see that Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys had recorded this two sides at Wallyphonic studios with Wally Hersom at the console, like they did for their debut album.
The A side is “Fine, Fine, Superfine” a good rocking’ song with a solid beat. This is not Robert Williams’ most original song but it completely fulfills its goal: make you dance, shake your head and tape your feet. The flip is far more original and is pure Big Sandy. It’s got the same highly melodic hook than song like “How did you love someone like me”, it’s smooth but rocking in the same time. This is a kind of tune that shows why Robert Williams has no equivalent in term of songwriting today. And with a first rate band like the Fly-Rite Boys, it’s a killer.


Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – What A Dream it’s Been

big-sandy-what-a-dream-its-been
Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys -What A Dream It’s Been

Cow Island CIM022 [2013]
Baby Baby Me – This Ain’t a Good Time – Missouri Gal – Don’t Desert Me – Nothing To Lose – Glad When I’m Gone – Parts Unknown – You Mean Too Much To Me – I Know I’ve Loved You Before – Three Years Blind – If I Knew Now What I Knew Then – What a Dream It’s Been.

When an artist and a fine songwriter like Big Sandy breaks a silence of nearly seven years to release an album of “acoustic and newly arranged versions of old songs” one can reasonably have some fears. But fear not my friends; although it borrows a song from each of his records, -with the exception of the Jake’s Barbershop ep- “What a Dream It’s Been” is not just a quick re-recording of old favourites like it’s too often the case with that kind of project. The reason lies, in part, in the choice of the songs. Big Sandy has dug deep in his discography to select lesser known songs than the one available on the two best-of released by Hightone and Rockbeat for example. And musically it’s an adventurous thing which is more a prolongation of the recent albums than the summary of a career. Thus it sees the band expanding the range of its styles to bring early ska and rocksteady (Baby Baby Me, I know I loved you Before) to the mix as well as bluegrass (This Ain’t A Good Time, Will You Be Glad) with Ashley playing mandolin and Jeff West providing harmonies, Country Soul (Parts Unknown), Mexican tinged stuff ala Marty Robbins (Nothing To Loose) and a jazz duet with guest vocalist Grey Delisle (What A Dream It’s Been). Big Sandy’s voice has never sounded so good and deep, particularly when he’s only backed by a double bass (“Don’t Desert Me”) or a guitar (You Mean Too Much to Me) and the acoustic format reveals the beauty of his song writing. It also puts a new light on Kingman’s skills. His talent shines throughout the album and is in large part responsible of the success of that record.
In the end, what was supposed to be just a celebration of a 25 year career turns out to be a pivotal album in the band history as were “Jumpin’ from 6 to 6” in 1994 or “Night Tide” in 2000.


Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Turntable Matinee

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - Turntable Matinee
Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Turntable Matinee

Yep Roc – Yep 2121 [2006]
Power Of The 45 – Love That Man – The Great State Of Misery – Haunted Heels – Ruby Jane – Spanish Dagger – Mad – The Ones You Say You Love – You Don’t Know Me At All – Yes (I Feel Sorry For You) – Lonesome Dollar – Slippin’ Away – I Know I’ve Loved You Before – Power Of The 45 Pt. 2.

I became a Big Sandy fan from the moment the needle of my platter played Hot Water the opening song of Fly Rite With, their first album back in 1990.
In 2000, the dark mood of Nightide marked a turning point in Big Sandy’s recording journey and his songwriting. Having used the rockabilly and the western swing terminology and grammar for years, he freed his writing and went to a new level with no restrictions, creating more than re-creating.
After It’s Time in 2002, Turntable Matinee is a deeper step in that direction. Still built around western swing type of songs like Yes (I Feel Sorry For You) with Lee Jeffriess back behind the double neck steel guitar, it takes that genre further and brings on some of these songs a late 60’s feel (The Great State Of Misery). Straight rockin’ songs make a welcome return in Big Sandy’s set with Ruby Jane and the two parts of Power Of The 45 at the beginning and the end of the record, an ode to the band’s influences (Glen Glenn, Link Wray, Chuck Berry, Janis Martin, Etta James…). Between those two solid anchors you’ll find some latin / bossa nova (Spanish Dagger), a bluegrass inspired tune (Lonesome Dollar) and probably the biggest surprise: a Stax / Memphis soul masterpiece called Slippin’ Away with Cad Kadison on sax. And just when I was thinking Hey this is the first Fly-Rite Boys’ album without an instrumental tune came the hidden track, an instro version of Spanish Dagger. Finally it’s more than logical that after being produced by Dave Alvin for their first two albums as Fly-Rite Boys they now fit perfectly with the Blasters’ definition of American Music.
Since the Fly-Rite Trio days the line-up has seen some changed but that didn’t weaken the band and brought new blood and forced it to be more creative every time. The best example is bassist Jeff West who is now a key member of the band : he wrote three songs (and one of the most beautiful song ever sung by Big Sandy You Don’t Know Me At All) and sings two. The musicianship is, as usual, faultless from Ashley Kingman’s inventive guitar licks and his questions/answers with Lee Jeffriess (especially on Yes(I Feel Sorry For You) to Bobby Trimble subtle drumming (listen to I Know I’ve Loved You Before and pay attention to his brushwork). This album is going to be hard to top but I’ve already said that about It’s Time so I don’t worry that much.


 Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys – It’s Time

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - It's Time
Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys – It’s Time

Yep Roc, [2003]

”It’s time” follows the beautiful but dark and sad “NighTide”. The line remains unchanged except for Jimmie Roy (Ray Condo’s Ricochets) who replaces Lee Jeffriess on steel.
Entirely recorded live in the studio to capture the freshness of their first recordings, it’s also a much more varied album. You can find classic Rock’n’roll ala Elvis (Chalk It up To the Blues), followed by the Cajun inspired “Bayou Blue” with Chris Gaffney on accordion and there’s even a surfin’ instrumental written by Ashley Kingman (Strollin’ With Mary-Jane). Of course their usual brand of hillbilly bop/rockabilly is still present with songs like I Hate Loving You on which Jeff West voice blends perfectly with Big Sandy’s. He also takes lead on the jazzy Money Tree which makes you regret he doesn’t sing more. But Big Sandy remains the “real” singer of the band and the excellent “Night Is For the Dreamers” with its doo-wop atmosphere concludes the album in beauty.


Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Night Tide

Hightone Records HCD 8123 [2000]
Night Tide – Between Darkness And Dawn – Tequila Calling – When Sleep Won’t Come (Blues For Spade) – If You Only Knew – Give Your Loving To Me – In The Steel Of The Night – A Man Like Me – Hey Lowdown! – My Time Will Come Someday – I Think Of You – Nothing To Lose – South Bay Stomp – Let Her Know

Released in 2000, Night Tide marked a turn in Big Sandy’s musical evolution.
Wally Hersom, former bass player of the band and the last remaining member of the Fly-Rite trio days, had left the group to be replaced by Jeff West (the Sun Demons.) West not only brought his bass, but he also came with his singing abilities, giving Big Sandy a second voice to play with, like a new instrument, hence the presence of harmony vocals on many of the songs.
It was also a change of mood. While previous albums featured dancing tunes and lighthearted lyrics (My Sinful days are over, The Loser’s Blues), Night Tide featured Robert Williams’ more introspective and dark songs. Songs like “When Sleep Won’t Come” written from the pint of view of Spade Cooley in jail, or “Nothing to Lose,” one of Williams’ saddest tune, are perfect examples of that direction. With these songs and others like the title track and Between Darkness And Dawn, Williams seems to throw off the limits of roots music and write songs without restraining himself.
And behind the Latin beat of” Tequila Calling,” one can hear the story of a man fighting with his demons. Even Lee Jeffriess, instrumental, which is usually danceable, is a slow and reflective number.
By comparison, ditties like “I Think of You” or “Give Your Loving” (penned by West) seem out of place and almost break the charm.
But the Fly-Rite Boys also stay true to their roots with rockin’ numbers like their cover of Cliff Bruner’s My Time Will Come Someday featuring Ashley Kingman in full Grady Martin mode as well as Hey Lowdown ( a stage favorite) and Let Her Know.


Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys – Down at Jake’s Barbershop

Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys - Down at Jake's Barbershop
Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys – Down at Jake’s Barbershop

No-Hit records ‎– EP5
Down at Jake’s Barbershop – You’re No Fun – Fallin’ for You – Snake Dance Boogie

In 1992, steel player Lee Jeffriess joined Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Trio (Big Sandy, TK Smith, Wally Hersom and Bobby Trimble) that became Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys. Shortly after that, Smith left the band. The toured Europe with Malcolm Chapman (Carlos and the Bandidos) on guitar before Ashley Kingman (Red Hot’n’Blue) officially joined the band in early 1993.
In July of that year the new line-up recorded these four tracks at Wally’s studio for No-Hit Records.
These four songs are the missing link between the “On the Go” and “Jumpin’ From 6 to 6“. They show the transformation of a tight rockabilly combo into a western swing machine that will culminate with “Swingin’ West” and “Feelin’ Kinda Lucky.” Here the mood of the day is more hillbilly bop with two originals on side A and two covers, Link Davis’ Fallin for You that features Carl Sonny Leyland on piano and Roy Hogsed’s Snake Dance Boogie.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

https://www.bigsandy.net/

The Rockits

rockitsThe Rockits – The Rockits

Award Records ‎– SH-1001 [1988]
Cruisin’ All Night – TwoTimin’ Baby – Stood Up

Formed in the mid-80’s The Rockits, previously known as the Top Cats, were a neo-rockabilly band heavily influenced by the earlier cat bands such as Stray Cats and Polecats. They were Buddy Dughi(Vocals/Lead Guitarist), Pete Bonny (drums), and Steve Herney (double-bass). This is their sole release, a three-song ep in pink, and black vinyl.
It contains two Buddy Dughi originals, “Cruisin’ All Night” and “TwoTimin’ Baby”, along with their tribute to Ricky Nelson, “Stood Up.” Dughi and Bonny later founded the Hot Rod Trio and Suzy Q & Her Be-Bop Boys.